US-based activist continues to speak up for Vietnam minority

Vang Seo Gia fled Vietnam after a family member was killed by the police.
By RFA Vietnamese
US-based activist continues to speak up for Vietnam minority Activist Vang Seo Gia seen in this undated photograph.
Facebook: Johnny Huy

Vang Seo Gia arrived in the United States on Feb.1 with his wife and son after the ethnic Hmong family spent six years living in Thailand as refugees.

The Hmong, many of whom are Christian, live mainly in Vietnam’s Central Highlands where they struggle to obtain ID documents and face land grabs from the local government.

Gia, a founder of the Hmong Human Rights Coalition, told Radio Free Asia he fled Vietnam after police arrested and killed his nephew Ma Sea Sung.

Gia and his family demanded an investigation into Sung’s death but decided to leave the country and seek asylum in Thailand after learning police planned to arrest Gia.

He spoke to RFA Vietnamese from his new home in Minnesota.

RFA: How difficult and dangerous was it during your time in Thailand?

I faced many difficulties, because when I came to Thailand I continued to campaign. 

The reason I decided to continue campaigning is because, since my nephew died and I stood up for justice I saw there was still a lot of injustice in Vietnam. No matter what I did, my nephew would not come back to life, but at least if I stood up and dared to fight such injustices, maybe such injustices and unjust deaths could be limited.

RFA: Can you talk about your human rights activities during your time as a  refugee in Thailand?

I founded a civil society organization for the Hmong people called the Hmong Human Rights Coalition with a colleague named Giang A Dinh.

Firstly, we focus on writing reports on religious persecution and violations of human rights for the Hmong people in Vietnam.

Secondly, we train people in the country so they can write reports when violations occur.

Our third job is to rescue victims of human trafficking. During the period from 2019 to 2023, we rescued many Hmong people and also Kinh [Vietnam’s ethnic majority] people.

We rescued a woman from Saudi Arabia and more than a dozen people, including Hmong children, who were tricked into going to Cambodia and forced to work for Chinese companies.

As for the fourth job, we participate in a project to reclaim Hmong people’s rights as Vietnamese citizens with [U.S.-based] Boat People SOS.

RFA: Please tell us about the number of Hmong people seeking asylum in Thailand and their prospects for resettlement in third countries .

I estimate there are nearly 1,000 people. Most of them came to Thailand due to ethnic and religious persecution … 

This year's settlement opportunities seem brighter as many families are being resettled to countries such as Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

The U.S. Government has also started the Welcome Corps allowing people in the United States to sponsor refugees from other countries.

This is good news for those in Thailand who have refugee status. However, for those whose status has been dropped or whose cases have been closed, there is almost no hope.

RFA: How did you come to the United States and what support did you receive?

I came here as a permanent resident sent by the U.N., not privately sponsored. The resettlement agency is supporting me for the first three months to complete the necessary paperwork, then they will send it to the U.S. government …. According to what I learned in cultural orientation sessions before coming here, the U.S. government will provide financial assistance with food stamps and health care.

RFA: What are your plans for the near future ?

I will definitely continue to fight for religious freedom and human rights for the Hmong people in Vietnam. 

Because I fought in Thailand even though it was so dangerous I think that now I have escaped that danger and come to such a free country, I have to do it even more.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Elaine Chan.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.